Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Roasted Tomato and Caramelized Onion Tart

Here is a delicious recipe from our recent gourmet group dinner that we hosted last month and one that I really want to share with you as garden-fresh tomato season is upon us. It had been assigned to another couple to bring to our dinner in June and was served as the starter course. I have since made it twice for my husband and myself - once in individual 4-inch pyrex dishes and the second time I made it in a 10-inch pie plate.

At first glance, the recipe looks long and complicated but please don't be intimidated - it really isn't.  The great thing about this recipe is that most of it can be done in advance.  The tomatoes can be roasted and the onions caramelized 1-2 days ahead so that all you need to do is place the puff pastry over the top and bake it.  Simple, right?

The part that wasn't quite as simple was taking the pictures of my tart right before we enjoyed it for dinner.  I arranged my dish in front of one of my tomato plants as a backdrop and, as soon as I turned on the camera, it started to rain.  Pour, is a little more accurate.  What to grab first, the camera and tripod or the food.  The camera won :)   Thankfully, I didn't have far to go and this delicious tart didn't get soaked.

Roasted tomatoes with thyme springs and garlic, caramelized onions with Dijon mustard and basil, both topped with golden puff pastry, what a delicious combination!

Then the finishing touch...a dollop of mascarpone cheese and a fresh basil leaf . See that lovely mascarpone melting on the warm tart?  Delicious!

The original recipe is called Tomato Tarte Tatin from Stir by Barbara Lynch, a cookbook that I've owned for several years and where I still continue to find wonderful recipes like this one.

A "tarte tatin" is supposed to be turned upside down for serving but the tart for our dinner group was so big we were afraid to attempt flipping and breaking it.  And so, it was simply cut it into wedges and served pastry side up.  I actually preferred it that way as it allowed the puff pastry to remain crisp and flaky.  And that is how I recreated it here and why I've renamed it Roasted Tomato and Caramelized Onion Tart.  It even sounds less complicated, don't you agree?

  (Daylily time in the garden - three of my favorites.)

Roasted Tomato and Caramelized Onion Tart

Printable Recipe

Serves 6 as a first course.

This makes six individual tarts, each about 4 inches across (feel free to make them in ramekins or even muffin tins). Or, you can make one 9 or 10-inch tart and cut slices from it.

Do ahead: The onions can be caramelized up to three days ahead. Keep them covered and refrigerated. The roasted tomatoes can also be made 2-3 days ahead and refrigerated. You can arrange the onions and tomatoes in the tart pan earlier in the day and then simply top with the already-cut crust right before baking.

What you'll need for the caramelized onions:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 very large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 basil leaves, chopped

What you'll need for the roasted tomatoes (makes about 4 cups of roasted tomatoes)

3-1/2 pounds of plum or Roma tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
6-8 springs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

What you'll need for final assembly and serving:

1 9 or 10-inch tart or pie pan or 6 small tart pans or ramekins
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
Flour for your work surface
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese or fresh ricotta for garnish
6 - 8 basil leaves for garnish (the number depends on how many individual servings you plan to make)

To make the caramelized onions:

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and the garlic, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn an even dark brown, 45 minutes to an hour. Don't rush the process! If you brown them too early they won’t get a sweet caramelized flavor and soft texture. If the pan dries out, add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan as needed. When the onions are nicely caramelized, take the pan off the heat and stir in the Dijon mustard and chopped basil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground pepper.  Cool, the refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the roasted tomatoes:

To easily peel the tomatoes, cut a shallow X on the bottom (not stem end) of each tomato with a paring knife. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and have ready a bowl of ice water. Boil the tomatoes, a few at a time, for 30 seconds or so and then remove with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge them in the ice water.  This will will cause their skin to loosen and easier to peel. Using a paring knife to grab and peel the skin off of the tomatoes. Cut the peeled tomatoes into quarters lengthwise and seed them with your fingers, removing as much tomato juice as possible. 

Heat the oven to 325°F. Divide the garlic slices between two large pyrex baking dishes or two baking sheets with sides, each about 9 x 13 inches or larger, spreading them out on the bottom. Place the tomato quarters in a large bowl and add the olive oil and toss with your fingers until coated.  Lay the tomato pieces, inner side up in the pans. Sprinkle the salt over the tomatoes and season generously with black pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are soft and wrinkled but still retain their shape, 30-45 minutes.

Cool the tomatoes completely in the pan before transferring them to a storage container with a slotted spoon. Discard the thyme springs. Keep the roasted tomatoes refrigerated until ready to use. 

To assemble and bake the tart(s):

Lightly flour a work surface, and roll the puff pastry out to 1/8-inch thickness. Invert a tart pan over the pastry sheet. With a sharp knife, cut out the shape you need by tracing around the pan with a paring knife.  Repeat if using smaller tart pans or molds, adjusting to fit the sheet of pastry. Transfer the cut out dough to a very lightly floured sheet pan and refrigerate while you assemble the rest of the tart.
Heat the oven to 375°F. Use a finger to spread the honey on the bottom of the tart pan(s), dividing it among multiple pans, if using. Place a single layer of roasted tomatoes in the pan, overlapping as needed to cover the bottom completely. Distribute the caramelized onions over the tomatoes, dividing them evenly among multiple pans if using, and gently spread them to cover evenly.

Remove the cut dough from the refrigerator and place it directly over the onions. Lightly beat the egg and brush the top of the tart or tarts with the beaten egg. Sprinkle each with a pinch of additional kosher salt. Bake until the pastry is puffed and a deep, golden brown, about 20-30 minutes, depending on size.

If you want to fry some basil leaves for the garnish, heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan until a basil leaf dipped into it sizzles. Place the remaining leaves in the oil and fry, turning them once, until crispy, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain on paper towel.

If you have made one large tart, slice it into six servings; (serve the tiny tarts whole).

Garnish each serving with a small dollop of Mascarpone cheese and a fresh basil leaf.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chocolate Chip-Pudding Cookies - Moist and Delicious!

Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.  To me, that is the perfect chocolate chip cookie!

The idea of using pudding mix in chocolate chip cookie dough has been around for some time and I even have a recipe saved that was a state fair winner in 1992 but I never got around to trying the method until recently when I saw a more current adaptation. I seldom use boxed mixes anymore and try to make most everything from scratch but I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised with the results! Normally, an all-butter chocolate chip cookie can sometimes turn out flat and and become hard quickly.  These did not.

I wanted to bring a treat for my grandsons on the 4th of July, so I mixed up a large batch and brought 2 dozen to their house and saved some to freeze for when they come to visit here. Last week, my grandsons were at our house for the day so I defrosted those I had frozen and they were just as delicious as the fresh-baked cookies.  Both boys loved them!


I used unsalted butter and I felt they needed a tiny bit more salt so I sprinkled a pinch of sea salt over the top of the next few batches right when they came out of the oven.  I also didn't have chocolate chips so I simply chopped up 2 Ghirardelli 60% Cacoa Baking Bars that I did have in the pantry into chip-size pieces.

If your curiosity gets the better of you - give these a try!  I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised also.  Two young, very active, grandsons-approved. 


PLEASE READ if you have a toddler in your family, I highly recommend the Puddle Jumper swim float that my two-year-old grandson is wearing in the photo above.  Since children that age can still be quite top-heavy, this keeps them afloat with the head above water very well. They are also Coast Guard approved.  I know both Target and Costco have carried them this year.  It's wonderful for brave little swimmers like ours :)

In the garden, it seems I am surrounded by purples and blues now. These flowers are clematis vines, for those of you who are interested.  Clockwise, starting from the upper left going around the outside, you see Jackmanii Superba, Etoile Violette, Royal Velours, and Emelia Plater with Etoile Violette in the background.  In the center box, Vesuvius (also known as Galore) and Juuli is the lighter flower.

This is my favorite time of year when my clematis are in full bloom. I could even go without cookies if they would only last until the end of summer :)

Moist Chocolate Chip-Pudding Cookies

Printable Recipe

Makes 4 dozen medium-sized cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature (1-1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 (3.4 oz) packages instant vanilla pudding
2 eggs, room temp
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place flour and baking soda in a medium bowl, whisk together, and set aside. In a large bowl or a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars. Add in the pudding mix and beat until light and fluffy - about 1 minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Slowly add the flour mixture and incorporate well. Last, add the chocolate chips and stir well to mix them throughout the dough.

Place cookies on a silipat or parchment-paper lined baking sheet.  You can drop them by tablespoons-full or use a medium cookie scoop for uniform cookies and bake for approximately 11 minutes, depending on your oven.  They should be golden brown around the edges. 
Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing. 

The baked cookies freeze well, as does the cookie dough.